Life is like being in a train: you can look out on the left side, the right side, the back, the front... but it won't change that you are on a train that will arrive to its destination, no matter where you look.
Most of us live this way most of the time.
We do our jobs, we do our relationships, we do our projects, we do our lives this way.
Fulfilling? No. Enjoyable? It depends...
Ultimately we are plagued by a nagging sense that we are out of control, that no matter what we do won't change anything. Some of us feel doomed. Some of us fight it tooth and nail... with bloody broken teeth and broken nails to prove it.
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What is missing for life to be fulfilling?
Some would say: raise your vibration, stupid!
What no one thinks is that the only thing that would matter with regards to your "train" life has to happen outside of the train.
What? you say. You heard it right. You have to get off the train and change where it is going.
And if you are really astute, you already know that you will have to do it quite a few times, to make sure you adjust the rails... 1
Hah, I said it, you need to get off the train and adjust the rails.
Now, even though the image of this courageous act is really amazing... in a movie, that you are watching, you have no idea how to do that.
More importantly, you have no idea what to choose as a different direction.
OK, here I need to issue a warning: unless you have some intangible capacities, this thing, this method won't work for you.
Meaning: you'll end up where you are headed.
What capacities do you need?
--seeing the big picture
--seeing the consequences of your actions
If you don't have these capacities, all is not lost: you can have them opened, when you are ready for them.
OK: here is the big picture of the levels that you have to go through:
- You are on the train. You see that it is a journey you didn't choose, that it's a journey that is unfulfilling, maybe even boring. This step does not require capacities, although to be able to see the it's the journey will take insight.Unless you do, you'll take tons of courses, meditate for decades, try to fix yourself... but you'll see that it's the journey, not you. That all fixing of yourself won't make the journey change...
- You decide to stop the train and investigate the journey. You get off the train, temporarily, and look. You look at the sign painted on the side of the train: it will give you the destination of the train.And you go way ahead, maybe miles, and find a junction where you can change the rails so the train will go in a different direction after that junction.
- After that hit and miss project, you smarten up and see if you can look inside yourself, and decide a better direction for your train based on some mental representation of a future and its ultimate process to get to.This time, you get off the train, but you'll know what to do: you'll actually lift the whole darn rails and redirect them: like a boss.
The first level could be called: no options
The second level is where you have options and you exercise them...
The third level is where you create, choose.
The actions leading up to and during the third level is where you'll need the new capacities.
Now, let me address some questions that will come up, if you're considering this journey:
Question #1: Why can't I start with the third level?
When you look at famous winners' lives through biographies or the media, you see only the above ground part of their journey.
You don't see their clueless periods. You don't see their "nose to the grindstone" periods. You don't see that until they grew enough to start to develop a mental representation of where they want to take their lives to, they just buckled down and worked, and worked options, and more options.
Most people never enter the third level, but truth be told, most people never enter the second level either.
When Thoreau said: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." 2
Ultimately the selfish gene wants us to live on the train without ever getting off to check or influence where our train goes.
About 90% never considers that they could get off the train.
About 8% try this and try that, but all that they try are options.
About 2% actually try to create their lives, but because of lack of the capacities I listed above, they fail.
The near 0% is the cream of the cream...
Question #2: Can you become the 2%, even if you have lived on level 1 all your life?
As I said before, when something isn't working, there is something you don't know.
Now that you know, the answer is yes. You can go as far as time allows... Because, please note, it takes time to exhaust all unproductive options, to go to the next level.
It seems that this, the accomplishing this break to freedom, break to creator process is hard-coded in our DNA.
One important caveat: you need to be willing to have been wrong. About everything.
If you blame anything or anyone for your life, the pull to keep on making them wrong for how your life is, for how you turned out, will make it impossible to move from the first level.
How do you do that? Give up making something or someone responsible for your life?
I am not an expert at that, I am sorry. But I am sure hundreds or even thousands claim they can do that. Try one of those offers.
Ultimately it boils down to this: can you choose happiness, riches, success, at the expense of having to be wrong? Wrong about whose or what's fault it is that your life is the way your life is, that you are the way you are...
MOST people will choose to be right. Actually, the genes choose, but it's neither here or there... you are the one who'll continue the miserable trip in the miserable train that is heading where it's always headed.
The destination is some version of "not worth a damn". Not now, not ever. A pitiful trade for a little passing feeling of having been wrong.
- Some would say that life is like sailing... you can adjust your sails... But there is no evidence that life is like sailing... whereas there is plenty of evidence that life is like a train ride
- Thoreau: Walden
Thoreau Reader: Home - Walden - Next Section of Chapter One
Above: From a 1906 edition of Thoreau's works, part of Walden Pond from Emerson's Hill. Thoreau's cabin was across the pond, at the cove by the tall pines. Beyond the cove, the walk to town is about one mile.
WHEN I WROTE the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.(1) I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.(2)
 I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent. Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
 I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders (3) as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways. What I have heard of Bramins (4) sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders "until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach";(5) or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars — even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules (6) were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus (7) to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.
 I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt?(8) Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables (9) never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.
 But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book,(10) laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha (11) created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them: —
Inde genus durum sumus, experiensque laborum,
Et documenta damus qua simus origine nati.(12)
"From thence our kind hard-hearted is, enduring pain and care,
Approving that our bodies of a stony nature are."(13)
So much for a blind obedience to a blundering oracle, throwing the stones over their heads behind them, and not seeing where they fell. Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance — which his growth requires — who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
 Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour. It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough,(14) called by the Latins æs alienum, another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses;(15) lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell (16) of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little.
 I sometimes wonder that we can be so frivolous, I may almost say, as to attend to the gross but somewhat foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both North and South. It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself. Talk of a divinity in man! Look at the teamster on the highway, wending to market by day or night; does any divinity stir within him? His highest duty to fodder and water his horses! What is his destiny to him compared with the shipping interests? Does not he drive for Squire Make-a-stir? How godlike, how immortal, is he? See how he cowers and sneaks, how vaguely all the day he fears, not being immortal nor divine, but the slave and prisoner of his own opinion of himself, a fame won by his own deeds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate. Self-emancipation even in the West Indian provinces of the fancy and imagination — what Wilberforce (17) is there to bring that about? Think, also, of the ladies of the land weaving toilet cushions (18) against the last day, not to betray too green an interest in their fates! As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
 The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
 When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism,(19) is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot,(20) and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living. Practically, the old have no very important advice to give the young, their own experience has been so partial, and their lives have been such miserable failures, for private reasons, as they must believe; and it may be that they have some faith left which belies that experience, and they are only less young than they were. I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose. Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me; but it does not avail me that they have tried it. If I have any experience which I think valuable, I am sure to reflect that this my Mentors (21) said nothing about.